Thursday, October 29, 2015

Ligety vs Hirscher

A Boston Blickbild Exclusive

Shakespeare gave us the Montagues and Capulets and the US gave us the Hatfields and McCoys. Now the World Cup is giving us Ted Ligety and Marcel Hirscher. Even the most unperceptive person in Soelden could easily recognize that there was hostility between Ted and Marcel at the podium presentation and award ceremony. If their eyes could shoot laser death rays, they would both have killed each other and Thomas Fanara would have been declared the winner. But what caused this hostility?  Our intrepid reporters in Soelden were not able to interview Ted or Marcel. However, he was able to find a representative from each camp who gave us some insight into the root causes of why Ted and Marcel dislike each other. Instead of using their real names, we will simply call the Ligety representative Ted and the Hirscher representative Marcel. Let's find out what they have to say.

BB: As recently as two seasons ago, Ted and Marcel seemed to be friendly with each other. What happened to change that?
Ted: Marcel won the GS globe last season. Everyone knows that the GS globe rightfully belongs to Ted. All Ted wants this season is to get his globe back.
Marcel: Marcel beat Ted fair and square last season and deserved the GS globe. He earned the most points, and therefore deserved the globe.
Ted: I can't believe that Marcel feels zero remorse about taking Ted's globe from him. We'll show you who deserves it this season!
BB: Let's try and keep this discussion friendly and civilized. We'll find out at the end of the season who deserves the GS globe. It was last season when fans first noticed the hostility between Ted and Marcel. Was there any one incident which sparked it?
Ted: Last season in Garmisch, Ted and Marcel were riding up the Kandahar Express lift together to get to the start house.
BB: Why were they riding the lift together if they didn't like each other? By the time of the Garmisch races, they clearly disliked each other.
Ted: They didn't really have a choice because the crowd in the lift line pushed them forward and onto the same chair. If Ted had his way, they would not have sat together. Anyway, Ted and Marcel were sitting next to each other. Suddenly, Marcel elbowed Ted in the ribs.
Marcel: Ted was taking part of Marcel's seat on the lift.
Ted: That can't be! Ted does not have a big butt by any stretch of the imagination. Maybe Marcel was encroaching on Ted's space but was trying to find an excuse to injure Ted and eliminate a competitor.
Marcel: Marcel is even smaller than Ted, so he would not spill over into anyone's space on a chair lift. Anyway, Marcel didn't need to eliminate the competition in Garmisch because he won the race by over 3 seconds. Ted is just being a sore loser!
BB: Time out! Let's refrain from the name calling. From what our intrepid research team found, the mutual dislike was already there in Garmisch. Anyway, I hardly believe that an elbow on a chair lift is sufficient grounds to hate someone. 
Marcel: You are right. A lot of it started when Ted kept feeding Marcel's former guide dog treats before races, even though Marcel said not to do it.
Ted: Can you blame Ted? He loves animals, especially dogs.
Marcel: Whitey was a working dog at the time and the other racers knew it. Was Ted really that stupid to ignore Marcel's wishes about his dog? He was told time and time again not to load Whitey up with treats before races. We saw what happened in Adelboden when Marcel had to use a substitute dog. (see this story) Ted will do anything to eliminate a competitor, won't he?
Ted: Ted doesn't need to get rid of his competitors because he's the best.
Marcel: Ted is obviously not the best because Marcel won the GS globe last season. Get over it!
BB: Our readers believe that the men's World Cup tour is like a big happy family without all of the drama of the women's tour. You two are certainly proving everyone wrong. 
Ted: Every family has sibling rivalry and squabbles. The World Cup is more like a big, happy, dysfunctional family.
BB: True enough. But most families, especially the dysfunctional ones, keep their arguments to themselves. They don't let the public see their hostility. (short pause) Let's talk about the press conference at the Olympics in Sochi.
Ted: Marcel started it because he kept putting his water bottle on Ted's side of the table!
BB: That can't be the cause of all of the bad blood between Ted and Marcel. 
Ted: Marcel seemed to be doing it on purpose!
Marcel: Well, Ted really started it because he was putting his hands on Marcel's side of the table.
Ted: That's because Marcel kept poking Ted on the shoulder!
Marcel: Ted kept looking at Marcel! What was he supposed to do?
Ted: Marcel was breathing!
BB: You two are worse than rivals for a woman's affection in a Brazilian soap opera! At least in a soap opera, the audience knows why the two rivals hate each other. The way that you two are carrying on, one would think that Marcel is the father of Ted's wife's baby.
Marcel: Ted's wife is having a baby?
Ted: No, she is not pregnant!
Marcel: But if she were pregnant, someone other than Marcel would be the father. He is faithful to his girlfriend.
Ted: That's what he wants the world to think. But we all know how those Europeans are.
BB: Marcel being the father of Ted's wife's baby could be a very good reason why they dislike each other. Imagine having to compete with the man who not only slept with your wife, but also got her pregnant. That would bring out the hate in anyone.
Marcel: Marcel never slept with Ted's wife, so there is no way he could be the father of her baby. Anyway, she is not his type. Maybe Ted should watch out for the Italians instead of picking on Marcel.
Ted: Again, Ted's wife is not pregnant. And what do you mean she is not Marcel's type? No wonder Ted doesn't like Marcel. I wouldn't like anyone who thought that my wife was ugly. Now you know why Marcel wasn't at the wedding.
BB: But if Ted's wife were pregnant, do you think it's possible that Marcel is the father?
Ted and Marcel (together): No!!!!!!
BB: Wow, you two finally agree on one thing. Maybe you could use that agreement as a step to help Ted and Marcel get along like they used to.
Marcel: We shall see. But I somehow doubt it.
Ted: I have to agree. Some things just can't be fixed.
BB: That is two things that you two agree on. One more question. Let's say that Ted has a son and Marcel has a daughter. Would they be forbidden to date each other?
Marcel: Why can't Marcel have the son and Ted the daughter?
BB: Does it really matter who has the son and who has the daughter? The question is would their kids be allowed to date each other?
Ted: Absolutely not!
Marcel: Never!
BB: Hey, we're getting into a streak of agreeing on issues. That's really too bad now because it looks like we are out of time. If we had more time, perhaps you would agree on many more things. If you can do it, so could Ted and Marcel. Then they would be able to revive their friendship. But now we will never find out if that is possible, just like we never learned the the original cause of the hostility between Ted and Marcel. And that concludes another Boston Blickbild exclusive interview.

The Boston Blickbild. Our motto is: Our office is very boring by Brazilian soap opera standards.

The Boston Blickbild is on Facebook. If you enjoy our unique perspective on World Cup Alpine skiing, please like us on Facebook. We are also on Twitter as bostonblickbild.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Soelden 2015 Report

A Boston Blickbild Exclusive

 The 2015/16 ski racing season officially kicked off with the giant slalom races in Soelden last weekend. The others will report about Ted Ligety's 4th win in Soelden, Federica Brignone's first World Cup win, and the comebacks of Aksel Lund Svindal, Manuel Feller, and Sophia Goggia from injuries. But, as usual, our intrepid reporters will tell our readers about the stories that the others don't dare to print. Let's find out what they have to say.

 Before getting into reporting about Soelden, we will get serious for a moment. Anna Fenninger will be out for approximately 8 to 9 months because of her injury. We at the Blickbild wish her a full recovery from her horrific injury and hope to see her on the race pistes again.

 The Power is in the Hair. What do Italian ski racer Federica Brignone and Samson have in common? Fede is one of the top ski racers in the world and Samson was a Biblical strongman. What could they possibly have in common? The answer is a lot of hair. Just like Samson, it seems like Fede's power is in her hair. Fede may not be able to lift mountains and rub them together like Samson, but she can ski down them better than those of us who are mere mortals. But we hope that Fede will keep her beautiful mane of  hair, just in case that is where her real power lies. You never know what could happen if she got a haircut and we really don't want to find out.

Un-American Behavior. It's a good thing that Joe McCarthy and his Committee on Un-American Activities is no longer in existence. Otherwise someone would have to report second place finisher Mikaela Shiffrin to them as being a bad American. When Mikaela saw the video of Soelden winner Federica Brignone's first run, she said that Fede deserved to be so far ahead. Mikaela did not make excuses for not being in first place, nor did she blame rocks, the course slippers, or the conditions. She has not yet realized that it is the American way to blame others and make excuses for not winning. Remember last year in Soelden, when Ted Ligety finished 10th and blamed the Naughty Ninja Stone? In addition, Mikaela sincerely congratulated fellow podium finishers Federica Brignone and Tina Weirather. Even after four years in the World Cup with 15 wins, three slalom globes, two World Championship gold medals, and one Olympic gold medal, Mikaela has not become a prima donna. Her parents have obviously done something wrong, or she must be spending too much time around Europeans, because Mikaela has the best sportsmanship in the World Cup and is not a diva. This must change if she is to be like her other famous teammates.

No Pressure Here. Eva-Maria Brem, who finished 9th, had the weight of Austria on her slender shoulders on Saturday. It's a good thing that Austria is a fairly small country, or else she would have been crushed flatter than a pancake. One of our intrepid reporters overheard the Austrian trainers talking to Eva-Maria, trying their best to motivate her and take the pressure off. Here is a sampling of what they told her: Trainer A: "We don't want to pressure you, but with Anna out for the season, you're now the top GS skier on the team. Show the world why you are our Number One." Trainer B: "There is no pressure from me, but the whole country is watching you. But just relax and don't let the stress get to you."  Trainer C: "You cannot fail us because you are the team leader. Imagine the shame of the Austrian Power Team's leader faltering on home turf. But I'm not putting any pressure on you to perform." Trainer D: "You are Austria's last and only hope for any World Cup success this season. So simply relax, enjoy the race, and don't feel the pressure of being the one our country is turning to for redemption." With motivational speeches like that, it's a wonder that Eva-Maria managed to finish the race at all.

Wham-O Comes to Soelden. There was a Wham-O Slip and Slide (see this video if you never heard of a Slip and Slide) on the course in Soelden. Several racers slid all the way from the top of the Steilhang (steep face) to the bottom. Fortunately, nobody was hurt. One of our intrepid researchers found out why the Slip and Slide was there. According to the FIS, ski racing is just not exciting enough anymore. The powers that be at the FIS were trying out the Slip and Slide in Soelden before heading out to their big meeting in November. According to audience surveys, the Slip and Slide was a big hit and we should see more of them on race courses in the future. Who knows...The sport of Alpine Slip and Slide could replace the downhill races at the Beijing Olympics.

Don't Trust Anyone (With a Bib Number) Over 30. Don't trust anyone over 30 was the motto of the hippies back in the 1960s, but it definitely won't be the new FIS motto. In the men's race, about 25% of the racers in the second run had start numbers higher than 30: Hannes Reichelt (31), Adam Zampa (34), Roland Leitinger (39), Christian Hirschbuehl (52), Andrea Ballerin (57), Manfred Moelgg (62), and Steve Missillier (66). All of them finished in the points, with Leitinger tying for 6th place and having the fastest second run, Reichelt finishing 16th, and Ballerin 19th. When the FIS convenes in November, it will recommend changing the start order to a totally random draw in technical races. Soelden showed that a racer's start number in the first run was not a factor in making it to the second. With a random draw there will be no more complaints about how start order favors the best racers, or that certain racers get an advantage because of their bib numbers.

Best Artistic Impression. No Blickbild race report would be complete without an award for best artistry. That award goes to an unknown course worker during the second run of the men's race. He started at the top of the Steilhang and slid all the way to the bottom headfirst on his belly. Maybe he was an Anja Paerson fan and wanted to imitate her famous belly slide. Or perhaps he was trying to promote the new sport of Alpine Slip and Slide racing (see the paragraph about the Slip and Slide). Nevertheless, the course worker's belly slide earned him an artistry score of 9.7.

Top Witch Doctor. Just like we include best artistry in our reports, we also tell our readers which witch doctor was the best. It looks like French witch doctor and three-time Dave Seville Witch Doctor of the Year runner-up, Dr. Djibuku, was tops in Soelden. He is certainly going to make it hard for Germany's Dr. Mabongo to win his 4th Dave Seville Award. There were 4 French men in the top 10 in Soelden: Thomas Fanara (2nd), Alexis Pinturault (5th), Victor Muffat-Jeandet (9th), and Mathieu Faivre (10th). However, Dr. Djibuku's award for the top witch doctor in Soelden was controversial. The Italians protested and thought that their new witch doctor, Dr. Mujingu, should have named the top witch doctor. They certainly had a strong case. Italy had the women's race winner and a total of 6 women in the top 16 as well as men's tin medalist Roberto Nani, 11th place Florian Eisath, 13th place Giovanni Borsotti, 19th place Andrea Ballerin, and 23rd place Manfred Moelgg. However, the Italian protest was denied, though Dr. Mujingu got a bouquet of flowers, a box of chocolates, and a card from the FIS for coming in second. It looks like the competition for the Dave Seville Award this season will be more than a two-horse race between Drs. Mabongo and Djibuku.

Well, dear readers, it looks like we are out of time. We will bring you all of the excitement in Levi in 3 weeks. And that concludes another Boston Blickbild exclusive report.

The Boston Blickbild. Our motto is: Our reporters are never under pressure to produce a story.

The Boston Blickbild is on Facebook. If you enjoy our unique perspective on World Cup Alpine skiing, please like us on Facebook. We are also on Twitter as bostonblickbild.

Friday, October 16, 2015

No More Olympic Downhill?

A Boston Blickbild Exclusive

There is a proposal by the FIS to eliminate the downhill at the Olympic Games starting in 2022. At first we thought that those who posted this story had time traveled back to April Fools' Day. We could not believe that this was a real story; it seemed like something that we would print. After all, every day is 1 April at the Blickbild. But our intrepid research team checked it out and it was indeed real. One of our intrepid reporters went to Switzerland to interview Gian Franco Kasper, but he was not available. However, our friendly FIS contact Bob was able to speak with us about this issue. Let's find out what he has to say.

BB: Hi Bob! It's nice to see you again. Are you still working in media relations?
Bob: Yes. The powers that be at the FIS have read my interviews with you and felt that I was a good spokesman for them. 
BB: I knew that we were good for something. (short pause) Why would the FIS eliminate the downhill from the Olympics? It's the premier Alpine skiing event.
Bob: Downhill is one of the events that we are seeking to eliminate. The others are long-course cross-country races and possibly some ski jumping events. 
BB: But why downhill and not the team event or the super-combined?
Bob: Believe it or not, downhill gets the lowest TV ratings out of all the Alpine disciplines. Downhill is not made for TV like the other disciplines. You know that TV ratings are very important to the FIS.
BB: Of course we do. They are as important as athlete safety, if not more so.
Bob: Whoa! Athlete safety is the most important thing at the FIS. But TV ratings are a very close second. 
BB: Anyway, what is it about downhill that makes it so boring for the spectators? It is one of the three classical disciplines, the fastest, and the scariest. 
Bob: Yes, that is true. But people stop watching after the 25th racer has finished because of how we do the start order. All of the top racers are in the top 30, but the very best go 16th through 22nd. After the 30th racer has come down, then we start the award ceremony.
BB: If you want to make the fans watch until the last racer, the FIS needs to shake things up. Why not eliminate rankings as a factor in the bib draw, and make it totally random? In a 50-skier race, fans would pay attention if Anna Fenninger had Number 5, Lara Gut Number 23, and Lindsey Vonn Number 47. 
Bob: That sounds a bit unfair. The racers who go later in the race have a disadvantage. Anyway, the fans like seeing the best going down close to each other and not staggered. 
BB: Not true. If the later racers are really that good, they can overcome the disadvantage of a late start. Tina Maze won a race with a start number in the 50s and Carlo Janka got second place in a downhill after starting 65th. 
Bob: I see your point. But it is rare that someone with a high start number wins a race or gets on the podium. 
BB: Maybe that could change with a random start order. It sounds like another priority at the FIS is resistance to change.
Bob: That is not true! We change with the times, just like any other sport.  After all, you don't see the racers on wooden skis wearing stretch ski pants and beanies. 
BB: Point taken.
Bob: We have also changed downhill courses to make them steeper, faster, and much scarier than in the past.
BB: Maybe for the men, but you obviously have not seen a women's downhill in a while. A lot of the courses are easier gliding courses where the larger women have a built-in advantage. Lake Louise, Cortina, and Meribel are powder puff courses compared to the men's classic courses in Kitzbuehel or Wengen. Even in Garmisch, where men and women go down the Kandahar, the women go on a shorter course. (short pause) Our intrepid research team also heard that if downhill is not eliminated, it would be a short-course race. Is that because there are no ski hills in Beijing that can accommodate an Olympic downhill race?
Bob: The size of the ski hills in Beijing has nothing to do with making downhill a sprint event. After all, what is the most popular event at the Olympics?
BB: Women's figure skating.
Bob: OK, what is the most popular Summer Olympics event?
BB: Women's artistic gymnastics.
Bob: I see that you are partial to events that feature scantily-clad teenage girls. No, let's try again. The premier Olympic events are the sprints, namely the 100-meter and 200-meter races.
BB: How are downhill skiing and track and field sprints remotely alike?
Bob: I'm getting to that. To keep fans interested, we will start off with a field of 50 racers. Each athlete will ski on a downhill course that is the approximate length of a World Cup slalom course.
BB: Wait a minute! At the speeds that downhill racers go, the race would be over in about 10 seconds.
Bob: The 100-meter dash takes about 10 seconds and nobody complains about how short it is. In fact, it is so exciting because it is short with a small margin of victory. Anyway, the first heat will be all 50 racers taking one run.
BB: The first heat?
Bob: You heard me correctly. After the first heat, the 32 fastest will go on to the next round. The 32 athletes will be randomly drawn into four groups of eight. Then there will be another heat where each group goes down the course.
BB: All at once or individually?
Bob: Individually. The four fastest in each group from the second heat go on to the third round, which has 16 racers.
BB: Suppose  the 5th place skier in the first group is faster than the top skier in the third group. What happens then?
Bob: He or she is out of luck. It's the same thing that happens in track and field or swimming. What counts is how you do against the others in your group. The remaining 16 skiers are then randomly divided into two groups of eight. Again, the top 4 in each group go on to the final. The eight skiers who are left will be the ones competing for a medal.
BB: Will the times from the heats carry over, like in a technical race?
Bob: No. Everyone starts a new heat from zero.
BB: Won't the racers in the final be tired from doing so many runs?
Bob: That's the beauty of doing a sprint or short-course downhill race. The skiers are taking 20 to 30 seconds to do each run instead of close to two minutes. The fans will also be paying attention to the whole race because they will have to wait until the final run to know who gets on the podium. That is much better for our TV ratings than the current system of knowing the podium before half of the racers have done their run.
BB: How do the athletes feel about this? I'm sure that those who trained to race on a proper long downhill course will be disappointed about having to do a sprint race. 
Bob: We didn't ask the athletes because they never like anything we suggest, even if it boosts TV ratings and fan interest. At the FIS, we are always right even if the athletes don't think so.
BB: Of course you are. Does the FIS have any other proposals up it sleeve to radically change the sport?
Bob: Remember, change is good. The racers and fans may not like it at first, but they will come to embrace it. They will look back and wonder why athletes ever did downhill races with one long run that took about two minutes.
BB: I'm sure they will. Well, it looks like we are out of time. Bob, it was great to see you again. Thank you for another enlightening interview. I'm sure the fans are looking forward to the 2022 Olympics with either a sprint downhill or none at all. And that concludes another Boston Blickbild exclusive interview.

The Boston Blickbild. Our motto is: Our reporters never took short journalism courses.

The Boston Blickbild is on Facebook. If you enjoy our unique perspective on World Cup Alpine skiing, please like us on Facebook. We are also on Twitter as bostonblickbild.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Behind the Scenes in Soelden

A Boston Blickbild Exclusive

The opening races of the season start in 11 days in Soelden. While everyone focuses on the athletes, there is a lot of work that goes on behind the scenes to get everything ready for a World Cup race. From course workers to those who work in local shops, hotels, and restaurants, there is a whole team of people working together to make a World Cup race successful for the fans. One of our intrepid reporters is already in Soelden and decided to interview some of those workers that the public doesn't usually see or associate with the races. Let's find out what they have to say.

1st person. Someone working to prepare the course. 
BB: Course preparation begins well in advance of the race itself. What is your role in preparing the course?
Course Worker: My job is I take the snow from that pile over there (points to the left) and move it over there (points to the right).
BB: I see. Are you involved with slipping the course or smoothing out the snow?
Course Worker: No, that is not my job I will explain again what I do in case you did not understand my English. My job is I take the snow from that pile over there (points to the left) and move it over there (points to the right).
BB: That is all you do, move the snow from one place to another?
Course Worker: Yes, that is my job. I move the snow from that pile over there (points to the left) to over there (points to the right). It is a very important job. If I do not do my job, the skiers would be racing on grass.
BB: True enough. One of the important jobs behind the scenes is making sure that the snow is in the right place. This worker is doing his part to make the races in Soelden a success.

2nd person. A waitress in a local restaurant.
BB: The restaurants in Soelden are very busy feeding athletes, fans, and support staff. (short pause) Servus! Race weekend must be a hectic time for you.
Waitress: Yes. We have many customers during the races. It is quite busy.
BB: Which country has the least fussy customers?
Waitress: Germany. You can feed a German anything and he will be polite and eat it. Serve a German beets and Brussels sprouts in liver sauce, and he will clean his plate. Germans are brought up to eat everything on their plates no matter what and then say that they loved it. 
BB: Has your restaurant ever served beets and Brussels sprouts in liver sauce?
Waitress: No! Nobody would eat here if we served that.
BB: What about ojlmsfjaegger or surstroemming?
Waitress: What are those?
BB: Special Scandinavian delicacies which a German would probably eat to be polite. Who are the fussiest customers?
Waitress: Definitely the Americans. They want to know if our food is organic, non-GMO, low-fat, carb-free, sugar-free, gluten-free, soy-free, dairy free, wheat-free, and peanut-free. A lot of Americans also want to know if our meat comes from free-range animals who have classical music played to them while they graze.
BB: Have you even been tempted to serve an American a peanut butter and soybean sandwich fried in lard where the bread is made with non-organic, GMO wheat?
Waitress: Uh....No. But you gave me a great idea for my next customer who asks too many questions about our food.
BB: At the Blickbild, we are always willing to help others with our creative ideas. The restaurants in Soelden have waitresses just like this one all throughout race weekend. When you go into a restaurant on race weekend, think about how hard she and others like her work to serve you.

3rd person. A Race Day Ticket Taker
BB: What do you do on race day?
Ticket Taker: I ensure that everyone entering the race venue has a valid ticket.
BB: Have people tried to come to the races with counterfeit tickets?
Ticket Taker: Yes. You wouldn't believe how many try. But they don't get by me.
BB: That's good to hear that you are so diligent about checking tickets. (short pause) Goesser is the official beer of the Soelden races. What if someone tries to get into the race venue with a Stiegl beer?
Ticket Taker: That is practically a criminal offense! There is  only one beer at the races and that is Goesser.
BB: Do you have a Mafia hit man on call to terminate those who bring Stiegl beer into the race venue?
Ticket Taker: No, but we call Security and they deal with the offender.
BB: What about people who try to bring voodoo dolls to the races?
Ticket Taker: I haven't seen anyone trying to bring a voodoo doll to a race and I  have been a ticket taker for 15 years. 
BB: But in theory, would it be okay for a fan to bring a voodoo doll to a race?
Ticket Taker: I don't see why not as long it is one of a non-Austrian racer.
BB: So you are saying it is okay to bring a voodoo doll to a race but not a Stiegl beer?
Ticket Taker: Uh...I guess so.
BB: It is good to see workers like you who are dedicated to rooting out the wrong beer at the races. If it weren't for people like you, fans would bring any old beer with them and not Goesser. Thank you for helping to make race weekend a success.

4th person. A Sports Shop Employee
BB: I'm sure that you have many people coming into your shop on race weekend to rent or buy ski equipment. 
Store Worker:  We have a lot of people coming into the store, but not so many buyers.
BB: Do you increase your prices because it's a busy, high-demand weekend?
Store Worker: No. In fact, we have special offers. But the reason people come into my store is because some of the racers have autograph sessions there. 
BB: But you would think that after getting an autograph, someone would check out your merchandise.
Store Worker: One would think so. But most of the ski fans are in the shop just to get the free autographs and a photo of their favorite racers. What a bunch of cheapskates!
BB: Can't you tell the people who come in for autographs that they can't leave the shop unless they buy or rent something?
Store Worker: That would not work. The fans would just wait until after the race to get a photo or autograph.
BB: Sure it would. If every ski shop in Soelden said that you get an autograph and photo card if you spend 25 euros, and could have your photo taken with your favorite racer if you spent 50 or more euros, it would be a win-win situation. The fans would get their autographs and photos, the ski shops would make money, and you could keep your job.
Store Worker: Interesting idea. I must ask my boss about that.
BB: Our reporters are not only intrepid, they are also clever. Dear readers, if you are in Soelden for the races, buy something at one of the local shops so that the workers can keep their jobs. 

5th person. A Course Slipper
BB: I see that you are not doing anything right now. What do you do for the big race weekend?
Course Slipper: I am not skiving off, but I'm on a break. According to Austrian labor laws, I am entitled to take a break. but during the races I am very busy as a course slipper.
BB: That is a very important job on race day.
Course Slipper: It certainly is! Smoothing out the ruts and ensuring that every racer has a clean course is a huge responsibility.
BB: Last season some of the racers criticized the course slipping and said that it was very poor. What is your opinion on that?
Course Slipper: Only the very best can slip courses at World Cup races. We course slippers are very experienced. The people who criticized us are sore losers who were looking for a good excuse. 
BB: So it is not true that the quality of course slippers has been declining?
Course Slipper: Heavens no! That is a rumor spread by people who didn't win their races. Saying that the winner was the best that day was simply not good enough, so they unfairly slammed us course slippers. We need to pass a lot of exams to become World Cup course slippers. I think that we are better now than we were back in the early days of the World Cup. 
BB: You don't deliberately do a poor job when you know that your least favorite racer is next on the course
Course Slipper: Of course not! We are supposed to be neutral.
BB: Did you or one of your fellow course slippers plant the rock that bit Ted Ligety's ski on the Soelden course last year?
Course Slipper: No, no, no! That stone was proven to have teleported itself onto the course. We course slippers had nothing to do with it and could not have prevented it from getting onto the race piste. We can only remove ordinary stones.
BB: What if a Yeti comes onto the course? Can you remove it before a racer crashes into it?
Course Slipper: What a ridiculous question, but I'll answer it. No, I have personally never encountered a Yeti on the course. But if there was one, I would remove it in time to prevent a crash. I would grind it into the snow and smooth it out so that a racer would never even know it was there. 
BB: Let's hope that neither the Naughty Stone nor a Yeti appear in Soelden to test your course slipping powers. Otherwise, you poor course slippers will come under even more fire than you were last season. Well, it looks like we are out of time. I hope you enjoyed meeting some of the people who work behind the scenes in Soelden to make race weekend a great experience for everyone. And that concludes another Boston Blickbild exclusive story.

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Thursday, October 1, 2015

Our Top Ten Changes to Improve the World Cup

A Boston Blickbild Exclusive
A couple of days ago, Ski Racing magazine posted an article with its top 10 ways to improve the Alpine skiing World Cup. While Ski Racing's effort was noble, it turned out that we are ahead of them in suggesting how the World Cup can be more exciting for the fans. We polled our intrepid reporters and researchers to see what they would include as their top 10 improvements. Instead of our usual interview format, we will make a list. The list is not in any particular order. Let's find out what our staff had to say.
1. Parallel Slalom Races. The City Event races are a big hit with ski fans because they feature athletes competing head-to-head. Ski Racing magazine also agreed, because it said that there needs to be more parallel races in the World Cup. The team events at the World Championships, as well as the Nations Team Event at World Cup finals, get the biggest TV ratings. As we all know, TV ratings are as important to the FIS as athlete safety. However, we were ahead of Ski Racing in announcing this. Back in 2013 we announced that the FIS was planning to switch to a parallel racing format for all World Cup races. See this story from June 2013. We are sure that this will be a big hit with ski racing fans all over the world.

2. Compete on Different Continents. Ski Racing had a point that just about all of the World Cup races are in Europe. This needs to change. People in Asia, Australia, Africa, and South America also deserve their share of World Cup races. Fortunately, with every race being a parallel slalom, it is easy to bring World Cup races all over the globe. The FIS needs to build its audience, and this is the ideal way to do it. For areas which have no snow, like Dubai, races would be held indoors. Yes, there will be yearly races in Dubai. Every major sport has at least one tournament in Dubai and the World Cup should be no exception. One of the things that our staff proposed was to have races on a different continent each week. If Mikaela Shiffrin could compete in Levi jet lagged from 28 hours of travel, so can everyone else. Jet lag will also take away the advantage from European racers who can stay at home during the week and drive 30 minutes to the race venue. The playing field will be more even, and the races will therefore be more exciting. The first series of parallel races will take place on every continent except for Antarctica. See the article in the previous section for more details about where the races will be held.

3. Allow Fictional Countries to Compete in World Cup Races. The Freedonian Ski team of Mafia enforcers was allowed to compete at the Sochi Olympics because the International Olympic Committee wanted as many countries as possible at the Games. However, the FIS currently does not allow athletes from fictional countries to compete in its races. In order to generate fan interest, as many nations as possible should be allowed in World Cup races. It doesn't matter if they are real or not. Ski fans would love the novelty of a team of hobbits from the Shire being in a World Cup race. The FIS should also expand its membership to those from other planets and galaxies. Then fans can  find out if the Klingons or Romulans are better skiers than Earthlings.

4. Have Pro Teams and a Draft. Ski Racing's proposal was to have racers join pro teams that are sponsored by firms such as Red Bull. Back in 2013, we had an article that featured a new national team format. Countries, not firms, would draft all of the available ski racers. At the end of the season, racers can switch countries. For example, an athlete can compete for Germany one year, Austria the next, and Canada the year after that. However, this switch is not voluntary; the athletes are drafted by the various countries. Here are the details in this article from July 2013.

5. Let Men and Women Compete Against Each Other. Lindsey Vonn wanted to race against men in 2012 and was turned down by the FIS. Back in 2014, we came up with the ideal solution. There would still be men's and women's races in the World Cup. But the FIS would add a third category, which would be for transgender people or for racers who wanted to compete against the opposite sex. Women who wanted to race against men would get their wish, as would those who don't fit into the conventional FIS categories. Again, we were ahead of our time and what Ski Racing magazine would propose. Check out this article from 2014.

6. More Fan Interaction. The fans want to be able to interact with the athletes as much as possible. It is no longer enough to get their autographs or photos after a training session or a race. Ski Racing magazine had it right when it proposed ways to get the fans and racers together. It is hard to have seats on the finish line, but there can be ways for the fans and racers to interact. We have a few proposals. In Levi the race winners receive their very own reindeer. During the week before the race, fans can join the racers at a special Grillfest featuring reindeer steaks. At races in Norway, the Norwegian team can sponsor a competition between fans and racers to see who can eat the most ojlmsfjaegger. We're sure that Grandma Jansrud could provide the ojlmsfjaegger. Sweden could host the most interesting fan competition. Fans can join the athletes in a closed room, where a can of surstroemming is then opened. The athletes and fans would compete with each other to see who could last the longest. The possibilities are endless for finding new ways for the racers to be more accessible to their fans.

7. Change the Scoring System. In the current system of ski racing, the winner is the fastest one down the course. That was a good idea in 1966, when the World Cup was proposed. But that concept is so 20th century. The FIS needs to move with the times and take its cue from popular sports like gymnastics and figure skating. Those sports moved from a scoring system that was easy for fans to understand to one that requires a PhD in astrophysics to figure out. Ski racing needs to do the same thing. The concept of the fastest one to reach the finish line is too simple and needs to be replaced with a system that rewards both speed and artistic impression. This system would keep fans interested because every racer would  have to come down before a winner is announced. The race would not be over after the first 30 have come down like with the present system. The details of giving artistry points to ski racers are in this article from February 2013.

8. Parity. Ski Racing magazine had a good point about parity and trying to find a way for non-top-rated athletes,or those from different countries, to score points or get onto the podium. Its proposal was to flip the start order so that the top racers go later and have a handicap. That is a very good idea in theory. But there is a flaw. Athletes with high start numbers have been known to win races or get on the podium. Tina Maze won a race with a start number in the 50s. Carlo Janka was 2nd place in a race where he had start number 65. Our proposal for achieveing parity embraces the American ideals of fairness and equal opportunity. Everyone also has a chance to be a winner and earn a trophy. It is simple. Any athlete who won a race at a venue in the past is no longer eligible to compete for World Cup points there. But he or she can compete as a forerunner or as an exhibition racer. For example, Lindsey Vonn has won the Lake Louise downhill many times. She would no longer be eligible to compete in that race for World Cup points in order to give someone else an opportunity to win it. It would be the same for Ted Ligety in Soelden, Lara Gut in the Lake Louise Super-G, or Marcel Hirscher at the Garmisch GS. TV ratings, which are very important to the FIS, will go up because the race winner cannot automatically be predicted.

9. Crime and Punishment. Everyone loves to watch their favorite athletes giving their all on the race courses. But the other thing that everyone loves is watching their favorite athletes being taken down and punished. US American football fans rejoiced when Tom Brady was punished by the NFL for deflating footballs; and they were disappointed when his punishment was rescinded. Football (soccer to our North American readers) fans celebrated Luis Suarez's ban for biting an Italian player in the 2014 World Cup. What the World Cup needs are some good punishments that the fans can get behind. Fans need to celebrate the punishment of someone whose boots are 0.000001 mm too high. A simple disqualification is not enough anymore.  Fortunately, we came up with some great punishments back in 2013. We really are ahead of our time. Anyway, punishments like the pillory, mask of shame, losing World Cup points, fines, and working in an Austrian salt mine need to come to the World Cup. We talk about those punishments in this article from January 2013.

10. Guns. If World Cup ski racing wants to appeal to a US audience, it needs guns. They are more appealing than photos of racers in bikinis. Guns would also appeal to Europeans, since biathlon is a big sport there. Eurosport broadcasts many hours of biathlon, so it must be popular. Oh wait, Eurosport also shows hours and hours of snooker and darts. Back to the guns...Here is our proposal. While the athletes are doing their parallel slalom races, they will carry a gun and try to shoot each other. We know what you are thinking at this point. If all of the athletes shoot each other, there won't be any left. The FIS thought of that already. Instead of using real bullets, which could be fatal, the athletes would either carry paintball guns or use a laser tag system that recorded hits. The laser tag system seems to be more favorable because it is less messy and it would record the hits more accurately. Each athlete would get five shots. Every miss would carry a 0.10 second penalty. Ski racers would not only know how to race quickly down a course, they would have be able to hit a moving target while they are themselves moving. This makes ski cross seem tame by comparison.

Well, it looks like we have finished our top 10 list of improvements to the Alpine skiing World Cup. Hopefully the FIS will get new leadership with the courage to enact these. And that concludes another Boston Blickbild exclusive story.

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